With the growing trend of people using music as a source of entertainment as well as relaxation, a lot of focus has been put on improved quality of music.
Having noticed this change in behaviour this, electronic companies have dedicated a decent proportion of their expenditure towards improving sound quality.
One of the most important devices for audio output is the speaker.
The speaker has today become a fashion statement, especially for the youth. The youth today wants to hear good quality music.
They do not mind making excessive expenditures for good quality speakers.
Additionally, nowadays having good quality speakers is a must for the various house parties.
Apart from music, speakers are also used for watching movies as it provides a theatre experience.
It is also used for playing games as good sound quality and good speakers enhance the gaming experience. Hence, speakers play a very important role in getting good quality entertainment. As a result, it is very essential for customers to conduct proper research and get proper reviews before purchasing a speaker.
It is also essential for customers to understand the essentials, basics and the design of a speaker. This would enable them to understand the quality of the speaker and accordingly, compare it to its price. Further, this would help them to choose the best option.
This post would help you understand the essentials of a speaker and accordingly would also review a new-gen smart speaker – the Google Nest Mini Smart Speaker.
Video: Introducing Google Nest Mini
What are smart speakers?
As technology has improved, so has the quality of the speakers and the functions that they can perform. Along with the quality, the design of the speakers has also been improved and hence, nowadays, good quality speakers need not be very large and come in compact shapes and sizes.
Recently, technologies have become very smart with the rise of smartphones, smart TVs, smartwatches etc. Consequently, a few years back, the concept of a smart speaker came up. So, what exactly is a smart speaker?
Smart speakers are a new type and a new range of speakers that have very recently come in the market. They have entirely disrupted the speaker market. These smart speakers’ functions differ a lot from traditional speakers.
These can perform numerous tasks that the older speakers couldn’t. For example, these smart speakers can control wireless-enabled lights, can place delivery orders, can provide information from online like weather, date, time etc. These devices can also stream music to the speaker from the internet itself.
Due to the multiple functions it can perform, it is also known as virtual assistants.
How do smart speakers work?
The smart speakers operate with the help of a technology which recognizes human voices. This technology is known as voice recognition technology. If the speaker uses this technology, it can then understand what the user is asking it to do and then the speaker performs on it accordingly.
Different manufacturers use different kinds of voice recognition mechanisms but how they operate could be slightly generalized to understand the basic concepts.
The smart speaker usually listens to all kinds of sounds and speech all around the speaker and then waits for the 'awake word’. This is a default wake word to which once the speaker listens, it activates itself and records what is being said around it.
It then captures that portion of the speech and sends it over the internet for processing. Once, the speech is sent over to the voice recognition system, it is decoded by it and then the system sends back a response to the smart speaker which the speaker delivers.
The system of voice recognition is built using a series of algorithms which enables it to become much more familiar with words and speech patterns enabling it to provide better service to customers.
The Process of Speech Recognition
Speech recognition technology has seen tremendous progress in the very recent past. Only a few years ago, this technology was being tested in laboratories but now it has widespread applications across all the domains across the globe.
Speech recognition technology is a very complex process that the computer has to undertake. The computers are initially programmed in such a way so that they can recognize several parts of the speech. These parts of speech are called “phones”. Later on, these phones are connected to other phones.
These are known as “phonemes”. These phonemes come up to form different words.
Google Nest Mini Smart Speaker
The best way to judge a speaker is to listen to the sound it produces or by listening to the music it plays.
However, in the age of e-commerce, this is not always possible, especially when people buy these devices and products on e-commerce or online stores. Hence, reviews like these are essential for the buyer to understand the quality of the speaker.
Nest Mini smart speaker is an entry-level smart speaker introduced by Google just a couple of months after the launch of the Nest Hub. This is an entry-level speaker and hence is comparatively lower priced. It costs around Rs. 4,499 in order to purchase a single unit.
This model directly competes with the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock which has a display of weather, time and many more things.
The entry-level speaker launched by Google has the same design as the previous Home Mini which was launched a couple of years ago. The speaker has a circular shape, is 1.6-inch-tall and 3.85 inches wide. The top of the speaker is made out of a durable fabric layer.
Google claims that the layer has been made up of 100% recycled plastics. There have also been some controls embedded within the fabric like the button for volume – the right button for volume up and the left button for volume down.
The speaker also consists of four LED lights which light up when the assistant is working. Music can be paused as well as played just by tapping on the top of the speaker. The rear of the speakers contains a mute button which when tapped would lead to the speaker not listening to any of the speech.
Video: Reviewing Google Nest Mini
One disadvantage of this model is that this is not a portable speaker and it needs to be plugged in at all times. The speaker could be placed on the table. It also has a wall mount which can be used for hanging the speaker. Similar to other smart speakers, you have to set up this smartphone using the Google Home app.
Once you open the app, you have to select the ‘Add a new device’ option. Then you just have to follow the instructions that will be provided to you. Even after the software update, the speaker would be ready for use in less than five minutes.
If you pair the speaker for the first time, then it might ask for a voice match, or link the music services with options like YouTube, Gaana and many more and video streaming services like Netflix. The speaker can be paired using the Google Home app on either Android or iOS platform.
For this speaker, ‘Hey Google’ is the wake word. Once you speak this wake word, the LED lights illuminate. The Google assistant would diligently answer all the queries that you have. You can ask anything you want starting from the weather or the time or about any event.
You can just ask the assistant to play a song of your choice and the assistant would play it for you. With the help of the Google Home app, you could also add compatible devices like smart bulbs, which you can later control by just giving voice commands.
Despite the great overall experience, the speakers aren’t great when it comes to sound.
However, Google has added a 360-degree sound with a 40 mm driver in an attempt to solve this problem.
Even though the sound quality is not great, it is better than the previous models.
Tones of low bass and midrange are much clearer with a level of separation amongst the frequencies.
The speaker divides the three kinds of frequencies in a much better way. This did not exist earlier in the original Home mini.
The music in this version sounds much clearer than the previous versions however, podcasts still sound quite muddy and washed out.
Additionally, Google has also switched the power plug to a much bigger barrel plug from a smaller micro USB plug. For this, a 15W plug is used. This essentially means that this device won’t be compatible with smaller sized sockets. The earlier versions were also compatible with smaller sized sockets.
One of the interesting new features that the speaker has is an ultrasonic sensor which is embedded beneath the top fabric. This would detect when you are near the speaker. Once you are near the speaker, it would show you the places to tap, in case you want to increase or decrease the volume with the help of LEDs.
Apart from all these features, Google has also claimed that the Nest Mini is capable of adjusting itself to the surroundings of the speaker. It does this by changing the various settings of the speakers like the volume.
One of the good things about these Google smart devices is that these devices last for a long time. If you have a Google Home Mini, you would know that you won’t get constant notifications which say “upgrade now”.
Of course, if you upgrade it, the sound will be better but then it would make more sense to make a more substantial investment in a better smart speaker. Another feature that is very interesting that has been added to the speaker is the dedicated machine learning chip.
This not only allows the speaker to learn your voice and speech pattern better but also speeds up the response time. This is because in many cases, the request will be processed locally instead of being sent to Google's servers.
However, you would still require a Wi-Fi connection to run the device and all of your voice recordings would still be sent to Google. There is a huge speed boost when the things are processed locally when compared to the situations when the requests are sent to Google’s servers for processing.
You could also pair two nest minis i.e. pair a right nest mini with a left nest mini in order to create a richer music and sound experience.
Smart speakers today are in trend and are often considered to be a fashion statement. People are looking for better and better speakers nowadays.
They don’t look for just sound quality in these speakers but look for multiple functions that would help them in their day to day routine activities.
Hence, while purchasing a speaker, it is advised that you check the speaker offline by playing music on it.
However, since people nowadays buy most of the stuff online, it is advised that people better research about the speaker and get some good reviews from other buyers before they buy themselves.
If that is not done, then there are chances that the design and features of the speaker might not be liked by the user or the customer.